Category Archives: 1900s to 1920s

Ollie

Can a dress change a life? Probably not, unless you’re Cinderella. But a dress can mark a turning point in your life…. I inherited many photos of a young woman named Ollie Cornelius. Often, there is an air of sadness about her.

Studio portrait of Ollie Cornelius, taken in Colusa, CA.

I’ve been trying to find out more about her from an ancestry site, with limited success. Ollie Cornelius and my mother became friends as young teenagers, and they were still writing to each other in 1950.

Ollie, left, and my mother, right (with ukelele) in a school playground, Redwood City, CA, circa 1918.

Ollie posing in a schoolyard. She is wearing a corduroy jacket over her school uniform. Circa 1918.

Young Ollie on a bench in Redwood City, CA. Although posing for a friend, she doesn’t look happy.

Ollie looks sad in the next photo because, having made friends in a new city — Redwood City, California — she was uprooted when her family moved again, to Colusa, 148 miles away.

Ollie in Colusa, CA, about 1919.

On the back she wrote, “When I had this picture taken I was thinking of Redwood City [That’s] why I look so sad.”

Today friends exchange photos instantly; then, people also kept in touch by mailing photographs back and forth. Luckily for us, these pictures often have writing on the back.

Ollie posing on a bridge, about 1919. This is not a period for flattering fashions…. but she knew how to wear an enormous black tam-o-shanter.

In her later teens, Ollie’s sadness had a more serious cause: she was diagnosed with tuberculosis — the “consumption” that killed so many in Victorian times.

On the back of the bridge photo, Ollie wrote, “This was taken before I was sick.”

Ollie is wearing the same dress in this photo taken at Weimar TB Sanatorium.

Ollie on the steps of her ward at Weimar Joint Sanatorium.

In 1919 there were no antibiotics; the usual treatment for TB was a move to a place with “better air” and complete rest for several months. Obviously, for working class people, quitting work and spending months in a private sanatorium was not an affordable option. Often, they continued working, incidentally spreading infection, until they literally dropped in their tracks.

Another tam-o-shanter. Ollie did not come from a wealthy family.

For a young office clerk like Ollie, TB could be a death sentence. Among men receiving treatment, the mortality rate was 50%.

Ollie and Claude (another TB victim) on the steps at Weimar Sanatorium.

Given America’s current attitude toward healthcare, it’s disconcerting to read that one hundred years ago, public health officials realized that an epidemic of this frequently fatal, contagious disease could only be prevented by treating the poor as well as the wealthy.

The Weimar Joint Sanatorium was created by the State of California and subsidized to give working class people the same chance of recovery as people who could afford private care.

Ollie at Weimar Sanatorium. The back of this photo says, “Where I used to live.” Dated 1919.

Fresh air was considered necessary for TB patients; Ollie is standing by a screened-in sleeping porch — unheated.

Three patients at Weimar; Ollie is on the right. The photo was dated 1919 by my aunt, who received it in the mail.

Ollie made friends with other women in her ward; in spite of their grim situation, they were still young and tried to cheer each other up.

Fellow patient Mrs. Alice Smith with Ollie Cornelius, about 1919.

On early photos, Ollie respectfully called her “Mrs. Smith.” “She was just married above a month,” [when she was diagnosed with TB] Ollie wrote. Apparently, Mr. Smith came to visit, still in his First World War military uniform.

Ollie with Mrs. Smith, who is clowning in her husband’s tunic and hat. “It is her husband’s uniform; her name is Mrs. Alice Smith.” I wonder if he took the photo.

Nevertheless….

Ollie and other young women at Weimar Sanatorium knew they might be facing death.

“…Patients frequently became depressed due to the severity of their infection and the hopelessness of a cure or because of separation from their families. In many cases it was difficult for families to visit either due to the cost of travel or because of the fear of becoming infected themselves. Seeing other patients die was another cause of despair.” — read more.

But a change came for Ollie. Was she really feeling well again? Had her doctors given her hope that she might be able to go home? These pictures of Ollie in a pretty new dress seem to mark a turning point:

Ollie next to her bed on the sleeping porch at Weimar Sanatorium.

Ollie modeling her new dress. Did it come from a catalog? Was it a gift?

Ollie reading in a common dining area. She still has dark circles under her eyes, but this is a different Ollie. She’s happy.

Ollie did recover, at least for many years. Trivial as it sounds, taking an interest in fashion may signal the end of her physical illness and resulting depression.

Ollie in Colusa, CA, about 1920.

Also, her friends had not forgotten her.

Ollie in a chic, sheer-brimmed hat, with my mother. About 1920.

My mother and her friend Ollie, 1920s.

Ollie fell in love:

Ollie and Lloyd Jennings, about 1920.

She got married:

Ollie and her husband. Note her Marcelle-waved hair. 1920s.

Ollie and my mother on a vacation, late 1920s.

Thanks to low-cost care during a public health crisis, Ollie survived TB and returned to active life:

Ollie, second from front, in the snow, circa 1931.

Ollie fashionably dressed (including necktie) for the snow; this photo was printed in February 1931.

Ollie with my Uncle Holt, 1930’s.

How wonderful that she had a future!

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Filed under 1900s to 1920s, 1920s, 1920s-1930s, Hats, Musings, Sportswear, vintage photographs, Women in Trousers, World War I

Replacing Your Sleeves to Update Your Dress (and Sometimes Widen Your Shoulders)

This post started with sleeve patterns as its subject, but it grew into one about the widening of shoulders in the 1930’s…. If that’s your interest, just scroll down to 1930’s Sleeve Patterns.

Sleeve pattern 5113 from Delineator, Butterick, March 1924.

Butterick periodically offered sleeve patterns as a way to give your dress a new look without much expense.

Renew your old coat with new sleeves or collars; Butterick patterns from Delineator, October 1933.

Changing the sleeves on an old garment doesn’t make any sense to me, because you would rarely have enough of the original dress material left over to make a pair of long sleeves…. Nevertheless, here is an assortment of sleeve patterns from 1917 to 1933:

1910’s Sleeve Patterns

Butterick sleeve pattern 9220, June 1917; Delineator.

“Design 9220 is a splendid set which will quite transform a dress that is slightly worn.” Unfortunately, I didn’t photograph the whole paragraph.

Butterick sleeve pattern 8954 from February 1917. There is a little visible gathering at the sleeve head — probably to be sure it would fit an existing armhole.

Here are some fashions from 1917 and 1918; would changing the sleeves have made much of a difference?

Summer fashions from Butterick, Delineator, February 1917.

Butterick patterns, July 1918. The sleeves are varied, including some that are wide at the cuffs, and one version (top right) is slit.

Butterick patterns from July 1918. The green blouse has sleeves that partly cover the hand, like those in the “update your sleeves” pattern 9220 from 1917.

1920’s Sleeve Patterns

Sleeves in the 1920’s were usually simple, fitted without fullness at the shoulder and close to the arm. However, some sleeves were sheer from the wrist to below the elbow, some widened, and some were split.

These dresses from 1926 have attention-getting sleeves. Delineator, July 1926.

Butterick sleeve pattern 5113, April 1924. Adding these to a dress from the early Twenties would update it — but by 1926, shortening the dress would update it more effectively!

Sleeve pattern 6544 from Butterick; Delineator, January 1926.

1930’s Sleeve Patterns: The Silhouette Begins to Change

Sleeves from the early 1930’s were often long but simple:

These dresses from February of 1931 have narrow, fitted sleeves. Delineator.

This 1931 pattern included some fluttery “capelet” sleeves, which really were a coming fashion. Delineator, April 1931. However, these sleeves start high on the natural shoulder, and don’t exaggerate its width.

A sheer evening jacket, Delineator, April 1933.

Ruffles created a wider shoulder on many evening dresses after 1932. This ad for Lux laundry soap appeared in Delineator, June 1934. (Blame the fad for ruffles on the 1932 movie Letty Lynton.)

This writer saw a connection between smaller hats and bigger sleeves:

Article from Delineator, November, 1931. This pre-dates Adrian’s designs for Letty Lynton.

However, back in 1931, this article noted that as hat styles changed, they looked better with “period clothes, clothes such as were worn with them originally. Period styles have appeared, but they are mostly evening dresses. Something else happened, however, to make the new clothes look right with the new hats… wide sleeves and puffed sleeves.”

Sleeve variations, reported by Marian Corey in Delineator, Nov. 1931. “The puffs may occur anywhere on your arm — at the shoulder, at the elbow, at the wrist….But … There are still more frocks with straight sleeves than frocks with puffed sleeves.” [A ratio of 12:1.]

We can trace a slow increase in shoulder width from the 1930’s to 1940, but from my small sample it appears that wide shoulders and gathered sleeves (except for the frilly ones on formal dresses) were a gradual style change between 1931 and 1937, starting with evening and outerwear.

Delineator reported the return of the Gibson Girl sleeve as early as April 1933, pg. 73.

Also in 1933, coats and jackets with fur accents or extensions at the shoulders were being featured, and not necessarily to accomodate fuller sleeves on dresses:

Winter coats with extended shoulders or sleeve heads. Delineator, September 1933.

Winter coats with wider sleeves, Delineator, September 1933. “Pillowcase” sleeves at bottom.

1933 coat pattern 5347 has wide shoulders and a modified, droopy leg-o-mutton sleeve.

Butterick coat pattern 5347 from Oct. 1933. If you didn’t want to make an entire coat, you could make new sleeves (right) or a new collar (left) from pattern 5351.

Butterick 5351 included sleeves and collars. Delineator, Oct. 1933.

These 1933 jackets also show the “Gibson girl” influence:

Big sleeves on short coats from Butterick, Delineator, Oct. 1933.

By 1935, even dresses appear to have wider shoulders — it would be hard to get this silhouette without using shoulder pads:

Two Butterick dress patterns from February, 1935.

A selection of Butterick dress patterns from February, 1936; Delineator. Shoulders are definitely broader, at least as illustrated.

By 1937, exaggerated shoulders with sleeves that are full at the top are standard features, as these patterns from a Butterick store flyer illustrate.

Dress patterns from Butterick News Flyer, December 1937. These sleeves are not droopy, but probably supported from the inside with a pad or ruffle.

Shoulders, 1940:

Very wide shoulders, achieved with shoulder pads rather than “Gibson girl” puffed sleeves. Butterick Fashion News, Feb. 1940.

The natural shoulder of the 1920’s and early 1930’s is completely out of style.

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Filed under 1870s to 1900s fashions, 1900s to 1920s, 1920s, 1920s-1930s, 1930s, 1930s-1940s, Accessory Patterns, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Tricks of the Costumer's Trade, Vintage patterns

Rapid Change in Twenties’ Fashions: 1924 to 1927

Dresses for women; Butterick’s Delineator magazine, March 1924, p 27.

When we speak of “the Twenties,” most of us are picturing the short skirts and dropped waists of the later 1920s:

Two Butterick pattterns for women, March 1927.

But during the immediate post-war Twenties, women’s clothing actually became longer, although less bulky and more revealing of the body under the clothes.

These dresses are from 1918, the year the war ended. One has a slightly dropped waist:

Dresses, skirts and blouses, Butterick patterns in Delineator magazine, July 1918, page 52.

Dresses, skirts and blouses, Butterick patterns in Delineator magazine, July 1918, page 52.

And these — 6 years later — are from 1924:

Butterick patterns for women, Delineator magazine, March 1924, page 27.

A reaction to the trauma of the First World War created “the Lost Generation” as described by Fitzgerald (in The Great Gatsby, published in 1925) and Hemingway (in The Sun Also Rises, published in October 1926.) Both were writing in the post-war period from 1924 to 1926. Fashions from those years may not look like “the Roaring Twenties” as we often imagine them.

Left, a draped dress from March 1927 which looks very “Twenties” to a modern eye; right, a draped dress from March 1924 — just three years earlier. Both are Butterick patterns featured in Delineator.

Which changed first: the fashions, or the women?

Less formal clothing from 1927, left, and from 1924, right. Butterick patterns from Delineator. What a difference three years made!

More fashion contrasts from March 1924 and March 1927:

Butterick patterns for young women, March 1924. Delineator, page 29.

Clothes for young women and teens; Butterick patterns from March 1924. Delineator, page 29.

Clothes for young women and teens were usually a bit shorter than those for mature women, but not nearly as short as these adult styles from just three years later:

Buttterick patterns from Delineator, March 1927, page 22.

Butterick patterns for women, March 1927.

If you want more details about those eight dresses from 1927, click here.

These youthful outfits from 1924 look fussy and rather stodgy, compared to the streamlined styles of 1927.

Butterick patterns for teens and small women, March 1924. Delineator.

Three styles for teens, Butterick March 1927. [The illustration on the left is bizarrely elongated….]

For more about dresses that combined different shades of the same color, click here. For more examples of rapid change in 1920’s fashion, click here.

A coat (1318) and dress (1323) from Butterick patterns, March 1927. Delineator, page 25. They’re like shingled hairstyles: short and sleek.

 

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Filed under 1920s, evening and afternoon clothes, Hats, Musings, Sportswear, Vintage Accessories, World War I

Trying to Put a Name to Forgotten Faces

I know where this picture was taken, but not when, or who it is. Monaco, Excelsior Art Gallery, 183 Main Street, Stockton, Cal. “The most artistic photographic work guaranteed, at moderate prices.” Ben Batchelder owned several photo galleries in Stockton from 1872 to 1891, but not necessarily the Excelsior at 183 Main…. So the picture is still undated.

Once a year (usually in December) I try to remind readers to use family get-togethers as an opportunity to bring out that box or scrapbook full of old family photos and go through them with the eldest members of the family. Try to put names to the faces. Someday, someone might thank you. (And you might hear some surprising stories….) If you’re lucky, more than one person will be able to put a name to the faces in the photos.

Photograph taken by Elliott and Harkness in Stockton, California. On the back the sitter has written, “Drunk when taken.” (I think he was kidding….)

I’d like to identify this man — he seems to have had a sense of humor. And he really was better looking than the “drunk” photograph implies:

Great hat. Now, who and when was he? A member of my family? or a friend who gave his picture to a pretty girl or to a member of the same fraternal organization? There’s no name on the back.

I’d also like to date his suit, hat, etc. If I knew his name, I could probably find out what he did for a living, and where he fit in the socio-economic scale. Did he live in Stockton, which was quite a large city by the 1880’s? Or was he a farmer who came into town so rarely that he had his picture taken to commemorate the event?

These children were also photographed in Stockton. I used Pioneer Photographers of the Far West to date these photos.

Two photographs taken at the Pioneer Gallery, 198 Main St., Stockton, CA.

A photographer named Ben Batchelder was active in Stockton from 1872 to 1891, but he only had the Pioneer Gallery at this address for three years: 1884 to 1887. It’s a clue; it eliminates some possible relatives because they were too old or too young to be this age in those years. It’s nice to be able to date these photos — but it would be nicer to know more about them. The date is not enough to identify this boy and girl.

Unknown boy in suit with short trousers, big bow. Photographed in Stockton, CA, between 1884 and 1887.

Unknown girl in a wool dress that looks home-made. Photographed in Stockton, CA, between 1884 and 1887.

By the 1980’s I had only one relative I could ask about family photos from the 1880’s and early 1900’s: my Aunt Dorothy, also known as Dot. (We can usually identify our close relatives, even if the picture was taken before we were born.) However, as I try to verify names and dates from public sources, I am discovering that — in the words of literary critics — she was an “unreliable narrator.” And, since I have been using photos she identified and dated to identify other photos, I made a serious error.

I had already figured out that some of the photos I inherited from Dot were probably labeled years after they were taken.

This photo — and many taken on the same weekend — says Monte Rio, July 4, 1921. Dot is 3rd from left, and my mother is on the far right.

She seems to have had many weekend getaways in 1921: in Monte Rio, in Santa Cruz, in Truckee, plus a trip to Washington State…. Or perhaps she just remembered having a good time in 1921, and wrote that on all of them (?)

Dot (back to camera) and The Gang from the Office, Truckee, CA, 1921.

Four women in Santa Cruz, CA, 1921. Dot is third from left. For more about their clothes, click here.

Dot in Granite Falls, Washington, 1921 (She wrote.)

I’m not blaming her — doesn’t everybody have a shoebox full of (pre-digital) photos that we finally get around to putting into a scrapbook years later? Her scrupulousness about writing dates on photos and on the scrapbook pages made me too trusting. I can recognize my Great Aunt Alice, because she was still alive (and lively) when I was a child. (That impish smile in the lower left photo captures the Alice I knew: shrewd and witty.)

Alice Barton: 1900’s, 1930s, 1950s.

My very young Aunt Dot is sitting on the steps with her brother Mel (in sailor suit.) The woman in stripes, center, is her Aunt Alice (my great-aunt.) But — is the woman in white her Aunt Cora or her Aunt Laura? I’m no longer sure.

Dot said this was Aunt Laura, but I’m no longer certain. Is it Laura or Cora? (That is a terrific coat — with an enormous hat — whoever is wearing them. Note the mud splashes around the coat’s hem.)

I believed that my Aunt Dot could tell the difference between her Aunt Laura and her Aunt Cora — they were still alive when she was an adult. But… trusting her identification of photos, I think I wrote a post about the wrong one!

I thought this was Great Aunt Cora, with an unknown man, and my Great Aunt Alice, in the 1930s. Their dresses are short and sleeveless, with belts at the waist: after 1925, probably close to 1930. (Other photos I have examined recently suggest that the man is their brother, John, who died in 1934. Three surviving siblings; that makes sense.)

My research in local sources [The San Mateo County Genealogical Society has amazing databases online!] finally located Cora and Laura’s death dates: Cora died in December of 1924; Laura lived until 1936. Therefore, the woman in glasses in this photo is probably Laura, the unmarried librarian, instead of Cora, the widow. (Oops!)

I subscribed to Ancestry.com a few years ago only because I wanted to access its collection of Sears, Roebuck catalogs. (And I would recommend this to anyone who needs to research “everyday clothing” instead of couture. You’ll get more information for $20 a month than from a dozen books.) But, once I noticed that Dot’s spelling of names was quite variable, I began using Ancestry.com to try to find the correct spelling of names for the people in her photos.

Azalia Dellamaggiore (as spelled on census records) on the courthouse lawn in Redwood City, CA, dated 1918. Dot’s shadow as she takes the picture is included.

Again, Dot did her best. If you asked me to spell the last names of everyone I have met in social situations, — well, I couldn’t. Also, after you meet people several times, and think of them as friends, it’s embarrassing to have to ask them what their last names are! What was Dot — a girl with an 8th grade education — to make of a name like Dale Lucchesi — or Luchese? or Luchassi… or Lucassi? (She pronounced it Loo chee’ zee.)

Dale Lucchesi [she wrote Lucassi here] sent this photo of himself to my aunt. Early 1920s.

Dale Lucchesi [she wrote Luchessis this time] sent this charming photo of “my little brother and I” to my aunt around 1921. (Look! A sleeve garter! and a tiny boy still in a dress!)

If Dale had given her a studio portrait with his signature on the back (as many of her old beaux did) she would have figured it out. Caston Popescul signed  his:

Studio portrait of Caston Popescul mailed from Columbus, Georgia, dated 1920. (He’s retained his WW I military haircut. For reasons I don’t understand, this haircut was back in fashion in 2017!) Caston was a soldier in the American Army when he applied for U.S. citizenship in 1918.

C. Popescul and Dot Barton in Santa Cruz, 1921. (That’s what she wrote.)

Then there’s a military man sometimes identified as “Val:” Volowsky or Walasky or Walisky ….

“Volouskey” (or “Valowskey”?) changes a tire while Jack and Dot look on.

“Walasky” with a tank, on the Stanford University campus in Palo Alto, CA; dated 1920. There was a WW I military camp, Camp Fremont, in nearby Menlo Park.

Nick and “Walisky” at Neptune Beach. Dated 1920.

Dot and the soldier-with-the-hard-to-spell-name at Neptune Beach, Alameda, California. Dated 1920.

(Is that a box camera in her hand?)

Census Name Variations

I’m finding some wild spelling variations on census reports, too — possibly the fault of the census taker, or the person who happened to be at home to answer questions when the census taker knocked on the door — or a transcription error made when the hand-written census forms were typed into a database.

You wouldn’t think a four-letter name like Lipp would be a problem — but I found some Lipps under the name Siff. And Sipp. And Gipp.  Barton showed up as “Baldhoe” in 1940. So just imagine the variations I’ve found for the family of Augustus Feodorovich Moosbrugger, who emigrated from tzarist Russia at the age of 19 and married one of the Lipp girls; the name on her tombstone is “Alice Moosberger” — and my aunt Dot pronounced it “mooseburger.” Tasty!

I’m so glad someone identified this couple; it’s my mother’s father with Emma Emerson, whom he did not marry.

Dorothy’s father (b. 1862) with Emma Emerson — their names were written in pencil on the back. He married my grandmother in 1893, so this is earlier — probably 1880’s, as the dress suggests. [Taken in Stockton at Monaco Excelsior Art Gallery.]

It was a delight to find this picture:

Signed on the back, “Geo E. Meekins, Menlo Park, California.” It also says, “Age 25.” I found him in the Register of Voters: he was 25 in 1890. How satisfying!

The back of Meekins’ portrait is inscribed — in elaborate writing — “Geo. E. Meekins … Compliments to Miss Lillie M. Lipp,” Dorothy’s mother (my maternal grandmother.) Below, my Aunt Dot wrote, “Mama’s first fellow.” I think she got that one right.

Unknown woman in the snow, white fur muff and stole,  probably 1917 to 1922. I’m still looking for a photo that will identify her….

P.S. Thank you, Aunt Dorothy, for hundreds of photos!

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Filed under 1870s to 1900s fashions, 1900s to 1920s, 1920s, Bathing Suits, Boys' Clothing, Children's Vintage styles, Costumes for the 19th century, Hats for Men, Late Victorian fashions, Men's Sportswear, Menswear, Musings, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Resources for Costumers, Sportswear, Suits for Men, Swimsuits, Uniforms and Work Clothes, Vintage Accessories, vintage photographs, Women in Trousers, World War I

Work Clothes: Bib Overalls and Coveralls

Story illustration by George Giguere, Delineator, February 1924. A young man in bib overalls receives a visit from two pretty girls. Notice the house across the street. This is not necessarily a farm.

When I began writing witness2fashion, I wanted to focus on everyday clothes, clothing for working class people. All the men in my family did manual labor — skilled labor, but impossible to do without getting dirty.

My mother (in light dress) with her older sister and her two brothers. About 1913, judging from their ages. My Uncle Harris, wearing a coverall on the right, would have been working in his family’s ice house by then.

I grew up seeing bib overalls on my father and my uncles. This is not a scholarly history of overalls, but a little tribute to a 20th century classic.

Both overalls [the word I use to refer to bib overalls] and coveralls [by which I mean mean a one piece garment with sleeves which covers the body from neck to ankle] have been around for a very long time. Early Levi jeans were called “waist overalls.”

Waist overalls from Sears, Spring 1896. The construction is like that of men’s wool trousers, with a high back and a buckle for adjusting the waist fit. “Overalls” meant a work pant — with or without an “apron” or “bib,” front. The top two were also available in a bib version: “Same as above, with apron front … and strap suspenders.”

For farmers and other men (and sometimes women) doing manual labor, the bib overall was almost synonymous with “work clothes.” It was also an ideal garment for active children.

My great-aunt with my Aunt Dorothy, my Uncle Mel, and my Uncle Harris. Dorothy was born in 1901, so this is probably before 1906. My grandmother has very sensibly dressed her boys in bib overalls.

Sears Roebuck sold overalls for children “4 to 14” as early as Spring of 1896. They called them “Brownie suits.” The model is not wearing a shirt: “Let your boy play in the healthy outdoor air this summer, dressed in a Brownie Suit. They are all the style this season.”

In 1907 the style had changed slightly.

From a Sears catalog, 1907. Overalls were made of durable fabrics and allowed a boy to “play without being afraid of spoiling his best clothes.”

The pockets seem a bit small to me, but a boy wearing these could answer the call of nature without adult assistance, since the bib suspenders unhooked from the front.

In 1907, the boy who didn’t wear overalls might wear something like this:

Clothes for boys from Sears catalog, 1907. Not really suitable for playing in the dirt.

Since overalls were made of heavy fabrics, and available at low prices from catalogs, I was a little surprised to see Butterick sewing patterns for them:

Butterick pattern 5410, for men’s overalls/coveralls, and Butterick 5365, a very similar “play suit” for young boys. Both from Delineator, 1924. Note: the word “jumpsuit” dates to World War II and is American in origin; in England they were called siren suits.

Butterick pattern 5780 for men’s bib overalls [also called apron overalls,] Delineator, January 1925. This man is a mechanic carrying a pipe wrench. My Uncle Mel, a plumber, still wore striped overalls in the 1940s and 1950s.

Overalls for boys two to twelve; Butterick 5258 from June 1924. He may be gardening, but professional farmers wore overalls, too. [And, more than 20 years later,  my Grandma bought me sandals exactly like those he is wearing. Mine were always red, bought new at the start of each summer.]

Some children wore overalls as a matter of course:

A farm family in 1934; photo from a Nujol ad in Delineator, April 1934.

For a well-illustrated article on bib overalls, as worn by farmers and others, click here.

Overalls for a “youth” and a grown man, from Sears, Spring 1929. “Fellows! The real thing! … just like Dad’s!” Left, bib overalls and a matching jacket in “Sturdy 2.20 white back denim.”

My uncle, the plumber, wore dark, denim, indigo blue overalls with narrow white stripes — and a matching jacket — in 1950. Unlike modern plumbers who wear jeans, he could crawl under a sink without exposing cleavage in back.

Sears overalls and matching jacket, Spring catalog, 1929.

“Heavy reinforcements where reinforcements are needed. Securely bar tacked at all points of strain.”  Levi Strauss used rivets to reinforce stress points — and held a patent.

One of the great things about bib front overalls was the specialized pockets.

From the Sears Catalog, Spring, 1950. Carpenters overalls, left, have ample pockets for nails, a carpenter’s rule, carpenters’ pencils, and a loop on the side seam of the leg for carrying a hammer. Painters’ and paperhangers’ overalls have room for paint rags, etc. House painters traditionally wore white overalls.

Sears overalls for painters and paperhangers, 1897. “Two pockets and knife pocket.”

If you’ve ever hung wallpaper, you’ll appreciate the knife pocket.

My father wears [once white] carpenter’s overalls in 1950. His foreman, at left, preferred dungarees and a blue work shirt. Note the foreman’s felt hat.

1956: Sears’ coveralls and overalls from Everyday Fashions of the Fifties. Coveralls were favored by auto mechanics; they had to lie on their backs to reach the undersides of cars. There’s not a baseball cap to be seen on these working class men from the 1950’s — they are wearing their old “good” felt hats.

In this illustration, a traveling salesman shows his wares to a woman he (understandably) mistakes for the farmer’s wife:

Story illustration, Delineator, February 1936.

However, overalls could be beach pajamas or play suits for women in the 1930s:

Masthead illustration by Leslie Saalburg for Delineator, March 1932. She’s not wearing a top under her overalls.

These pajamas were suggested for tennis in an ad from Delineator, June, 1932. They look like a trip hazard to me.

Women had worn men’s overalls when doing factory work in the First World War.

American woman in Ladies' Home Journal, August 1917.

American woman, Ladies’ Home Journal, 1917.

They also wore them during World War II, but this 1940’s sewing pattern is for work or play:

Anne Adams sewing pattern 4350 circa 1942.

My father still wore overalls from time to time after he retired in the 1970’s. This striped pair have big, removable pockets attached with a zipper.

Striped overalls worn on a fishing trip, 1970s — better than gutting fish in your good trousers and shirt!

He’s  standing in a basement laundry room. Automatic washing machines may explain why many workers now wear chinos or jeans instead of overalls.

Here are some overalls for children from the 1940’s:

Overall-styled play suit (with matching jacket) from Butterick Fashion News, October 1943.

An overall/play suit very like the back-baring beach pajamas of 1932, with narrower legs. Butterick Fashion News, August, 1948.

Overalls for children continue to be popular. These brand new striped overalls from OshKosh are faded and aged before being sold.

I don’t remember these, but here’s proof that I used to wear overalls, too:

Witness2fashion in overalls, early 1950s. The curls and the hair bow were my mother’s idea.

What’s with the dirt piles? My father was a housemover; the house behind me is “up on blocks” and on its way to a new location.

A house being moved from one location to another, California, 1950s.

In England, “housemovers” move furniture, but in my part of the world, where wooden houses survive earthquakes better than stone or brick ones, housemovers could separate a house from its foundation and move it to a new location, often miles away, while keeping it perfectly intact. It was definitely skilled work.

P.S. The Vintage Traveler supplied a link to the article in Paris Review: The Jumpsuit That Will Replace All Clothes Forever. We’re not convinced.

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Clothing Patterns for Boys, 1920’s

Butterick patterns for boys up to 17; Delineator, August 1924.

I don’t mean to neglect clothing for men, but it evolves more slowly and less obviously than clothing for women. Seeing the great sweaters and knickers on the boys who visited Mount Lowe, I remembered that I’ve been compiling a file of Butterick patterns f0r boys. Today’s focus is on pre-teens and boys up to 16 or so. [With a digression on the Butterick Deltor….]

Boys about to play an informal game of baseball, Delineator, April 1928. From an ad for Quaker Oats. The jacket on the right is very like the pattern illustrated above, and… there are two more great, patterned sweaters!

Boys had been wearing short trousers, knickers, and Norfolk jackets for some time. This is an ad from 1917, but the trousers would be much the same in 1927:

Ad for boys clothing from Sampeck Company, Delineator, May 1917.

Boys’ clothes were often very similar to men’s clothing — with the exception of those short trousers.

Suit jacket, tie, and bare knees. Butterick pattern 4840. These boys were shown in an ad for Butterick patterns. Delineator, February 1924. Clothing for pre-school boys (left) was less “manly” than for their school-age brothers.

Butterick assured mothers that they could make clothes for their children that would not look obviously home-made. Delineator, February 1924.

The Deltor was Butterick’s patented instruction sheet. In an era of blank tissue pattern pieces, identified only by punched holes and purchased in an envelope with all the sewing instructions that would fit on the envelope  — and nothing more — the innovation of a pattern that came with an illustrated “how to” guide made Butterick’s reputation. The guide was called “The Deltor.”

Bottom of Butterick pattern ad, February 1924.

Butterick patterns included a suggested fabric layout, as well as assembly instructions, but the pattern pieces were still unprinted, factory-cut tissue in this 1924 ad.

Happy ending of the Butterick ad from Delineator, February 1924.

Why boys were expected to suffer the cold — wearing trousers that ended at the knee in all weathers — I do not know. At least these aren’t flapping in the wind:

A Mackinaw coat and a polo cap from Butterick, December 1924. Mackinaw pattern 5709 for boys 4 to 16 years; cap pattern 4068 for boys 2 to 12.

Their knees might be cold, but their socks were spectacular. Butterick overcoats for boys, Delineator, September 1926. Right, double-breasted Butterick 6256 for boys 2 to 6 years; left, a man-styled overcoat (Butterick 6270) for boys 8 to 16.

This knicker suit (Butterick 7096) even has a matching vest, just like Dad’s suit. The little boy’s double-breasted overcoat (Butterick 7056) is a classic — it looks much like men’s winter overcoats today. Delineator, September 1926.

The day when a boy got his first pair of long trousers marked his entry into manhood.

A suit with optional long trousers, sized for boys from 5 to 12. Butterick 6145, July 1925. Note the short-trousered version at left, for young boys.

Butterick 5010. A boy’s shirt might still be called a blouse in the twenties. Delineator, February 1924.

A man’s soft-collared shirt was sometimes called an outing shirt or a negligee shirt. Delineator, April 1924. Both boys and men wear short neckties.

Summer meant even shorter pants — or possibly golf knickers — for boys.

From left:  Pattern 6025 is for young boys; the blazer (Butterick 4458,) golf knickers (No. 5950,) and an outfit (right) meant for hiking or camping (Butterick 5378) are for older boys. July 1925.

[Butterick Play suit 5365 will be covered when I write about Overalls, some other day.] This is another view of those “camping togs,” Butterick 5378.

Even in Africa, this was the basis for the Boy Scout uniform:

Two boy scouts in Africa; Delineator, March 1929.

Four Butterick pattterns for boys from August, 1926:  shirt 7023, short trousers 4480, windbreaker 7031, and golf knickers 5950. Delineator, August 1926.

That wide range of pattern numbers, from 4480 to 7031, is a reminder that boys’ clothes, and children’s patterns in general, have a longer fashion life than women’s clothing.

Just as 1920’s women’s skirts sometimes were attached to an underbodice that hung from the shoulders, trousers for little boys whose pants wouldn’t otherwise stay up were sometimes attached to a button-on top. Naturally, this made trips to the toilet difficult without assistance.

Talon Zippers had a 1929 ad campaign stressing that zippers would make children able to dress and undress themselves, building self-reliance.

Click to read Zippers Are Good for Your Children. How did over-the-knee socks stay up? Click here.

A page of costume research for one character in the musical She Loves Me. Sometimes, if the costume will be “shopped” or rented instead of built, a sheet like this shows the director, the actor,  and the costume shop what to expect.

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Work Clothes Patterns: Doctors and Dentists

An artist’s idea of an operating room, Delineator, Sept. 1934.

Anyone who grew up — as I did — watching the 1931 movie Frankenstein every time it was on TV will probably associate these long surgical gowns with Colin Clive shrieking, “It’s alive! It’s aliiiiive!

But it never occurred to me that Butterick would offer sewing patterns for surgical gowns and dentists’ smocks. We now order such things from specialty uniform supply houses.

Butterick pattern 5306 is a doctor’s operating gown and cap. From Delineator, June 1924.

I hope no doctor operated in his spats…. And — maybe it’s the test tube — but there’s a touch of Gene (Young Frankenstein) Wilder in his eyes.

Butterick suggested it was “much less expensive” to make gowns like this than to buy them.

During World War I, Red Cross Volunteers made surgical gowns, robes for hospitalized soldiers, specialized pajamas for hospital and convalescent use, hot water bottle covers, bed linens, and surgical dressings, among other things.

Patterns for these officially approved hospital supplies were available for ten cents; this article ran in Ladies Home Journal, Delineator, and other women’s magazines in the fall of 1917. These images are from Ladies’ Home Journal, December 1917.

LHJ, Dec. 1917. The urgent need for such hospital supplies brings home some of the horror of the war, in spite of government censorship at the time.

From LHJ, December 1917.

“Already the needs are greater than the supplies available….” American women wanted to help, but their efforts needed to be directed toward the most urgent medical needs in 1917 and 1918.

So the idea of sewing home-made operating gowns was not at all strange in 1924.

A pattern for a dentist’s gown was also offered by Butterick:

Butterick 5426, a pattern for a dentist’s gown from Delineator, August 1924.

The basic dentist’s gown didn’t change much, except that short sleeves were introduced….

A dentist and his nurse in an ad for citrus fruits. Delineator, June 1934.

Although Butterick assumed that dentists were male in 1924, my friend Barbara collected this interesting vintage garment for a woman, thinking it would have suited a pharmacist or other woman working in a medical field:

This looks like a woman’s work uniform top; the 3/4 sleeves suggest the World War I era. The neck is plain, and it’s easy to wash and iron.

Do you think she was right?

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